05/13/2014 04:59 EDT | Updated 07/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Should distracted drivers be shamed for their behaviour?

The biggest challenge to preventing distracted driving is complacent social attitudes, according Jay Winsten, an associate dean at Harvard's Public School of Health.

"There is no stigma, there is no sense of shame" said Winsten, speaking at public forum called Preventing Distracted Driving on April 28.

"We're going to have to re-position what it means when people see you talking on the phone."

Winsten suggested stand-up comedians should be recruited to ridicule the behaviour.

In Vancouver, comedian Paul Bae is happy to throw barbs at distracted drivers.

"It's not a bad idea. We don't shame enough texters. We all know someone in their family guilty of this. We write it off as 'I'm sorry, I only held up traffic for a minute', and we think that's the worst thing that could possibly happen"

"Texting is stupider than drunk driving" says Bae, who also teaches high school.

"Texting is worse, because you're sober doing it, and you're doing it over and over again while you're driving. It's almost like driving and taking a sip of Pinot Grigio every five minutes."

Online campaigns expose distracted drivers

An online campaign, Twit Spotting, posts photos of people using their phones while driving.

The website encourages people to send the pictures, along with information about where the photo was taken.

According to the website, "the more of us out there documenting, the more behaviour will change."

The caption to one photo reads: "A young man decided to catch up on his emails while waiting for the light to change.  Other drivers noticed the light, he did not. Nor did he notice me walking by on the sidewalk while taking his picture less than six feet away."

"No simple solution"

Karen Bowman, founder of the B.C. campaign Drop it and Drive, has mixed feelings on whether shaming drivers would be effective.

"Should people feel shame for what they're doing when they're driving distracted? Absolutely," says the Vancouver Island safety advocate.

"I'm not sure that shaming is going to change the minds of people who already think the law doesn't apply to them."

Bowman says there is no simple solution, but applauds any effort to prevent distracted driving.  

"We have to keep trying new things, because the situation is getting exponentially worse," she says.

"We may look back and think, 'Wow, shaming really works'."

Catch Michelle Eliot with On the Move, a segment on commuter issues, Tuesdays on CBC Radio 1, 88.1 FM/690 AM in Vancouver